While Cartmel now seems like a pretty sleepy town, it once was a bustling center of commerce. The Priory was the heart of a local agricultural economy. While that might have changed a lot, the Priory itself is still an impressive structure and reminder of how things had once been very different. While not as grandiose as some of the UK’s cathedrals, it is still a pretty grand building to come across in an otherwise small town.
Ullswater is gorgeous. Not a lot more to say to be honest. A large lake surrounded by impressive hills. Add a sunny day and what more could you want. This place is lovely and, since it is not on a main thoroughfare, once you are out of the main tourist season, it is not terribly busy. What more could you ask for?
When you have been away from somewhere for a long time, there is a risk in going back to favorite old haunts. They may not be as good as you remember and you can harm a happy memory of a place. Despite this, we decided to take a chance and visit a pub that was always a favorite of ours when we lived in Lancashire. The Mason’s Arms is on the hillside above Bowland Bridge in the Lake District. It always used to have excellent food and a huge selection of beers.
The beer selection has changed. It is now a pretty normal pub with a few different beers but no longer are there hundreds of different bottles available to sample. That is the only significant change, though. Otherwise, it is just as good if not better than I remember. The food was first class and the view across the valley just as good as it has always been. They have even made some small changes outside to the seating area to make it more comfortable.
There are not many places that are quite as relaxing to be with a pint in hand and some good food in front of you than looking out over the valley on a sunny afternoon. There is only a limited amount of parking so the place can get busy but it doesn’t feel overrun. One surprise it did provide was the presence of an old boss of mine from my days at BAe. He was having lunch with his wife half way around a walk they were taking. We had quite a long chat and it was great to catch up. When he left, we continued to sit and enjoy our food and the terrific view.
The Lake District includes a few pretty steep passes to let you get from one valley to another. The route to Ullswater from Windermere takes you over the Kirkstone Pass. It isn’t the steepest pass in the Lakes but it is pretty steep all the same. Definitely not something you want to be stuck behind a slow truck on.
At the top of the pass is the Kirkstone Pass Inn. If you were traversing the pass in awful weather (something that is not that unusual in the Lakes), reaching that Inn would certainly seem to be a very welcome development. On the day we came through, though, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. The light on the hills looked great and the view down to Ullswater was fantastic. The steepness of the descent is something that it is hard to convey in a photograph but the drop was quite something to see. As we started down, there was a turn out that allowed us to stop again and get an even better view on the route down to the valley. It also allowed some of the other traffic to move on. Climbing the hill and dropping down the other side is not terrible for a car but it is fair to say I was happier doing it with a rental car than with my own!
Cartmel is a small town at the south end of the Lake District. There is a food shop there that specializes in something Nancy wanted to take home which was why we were there in the first place. Of course, we had to take a look around while we were there. Apart from the center of the town and the Priory (of which more in another post), the town is particularly well known for having a race course. We weren’t there during a meet but we did park in an area that involved driving over the end of the race course itself.
As you walk across the track, so can see up to the starting locations and the finishing straight with the grandstand. The grass was in excellent condition. It appeared to be a course that included flat racing and hurdles although I have never been there during a meet so don’t know which type of racing is most common. Looking up the straight, you could imagine a bunch of horse thundering towards you with the crowds cheering and hoping for a big win.
One of the more frustrating elements of photography is trying to convey the sense of scale. In the past I have had the conversation with people visiting Yosemite for the first time that everything they have seen of it in pictures will not prepare them for the scale of the real thing. Wide angle lenses can bring in a lot of the scenery but they also compress it in a way that reduces the impact. This is a lot more of a problem when dealing with something impressive in a confined space. Aira Force is one such example. Located on the north side of Ullswater, Aira Force is a series of waterfalls of differing sizes. There is one particularly large fall that is in a narrow cleft in the rocks.
A set of steep steps take you from the top of the rocks down to where the falls hit the water. Getting everything in a single shot of the falls needs a very wide angle on your lens. The downside of this is that it becomes harder to appreciate exactly what the shot is. You are looking down and the bottom becomes very small in the frame. It is hard to appreciate exactly how impressive the whole thing looks. If you get people in the shot that helps but they can be so small that they aren’t immediately obvious so the effect is diminished.
The falls themselves are great in person. You can walk down on one side, across the bottom and climb up the other side before crossing a bridge that runs over the top of the falls. The view looking down from the top is pretty cool too. You are just away from the edge so there is some detachment from the plunge the water takes. If you continue up the hill, there are further falls that the water undergoes as it comes down the hill. The way the water has cut through the rock results in some twists and turns on its way.
Plenty of people visit the main section of the fall but a lot less seemed bothered to go up the hill and see what else was there. They were the ones making a mistake because the whole thing was a really attractive sight to see.
Water speed records need two important elements. A long, straight section of water on which to get up to speed (and stop again) and calm conditions to avoid getting out of control. Windermere is a body of water that fits these criteria and that is why Sir Henry Segrave chose it as the location for his record runs. (Later runs would be carried out by other on Ullswater and Coniston Water.) First thing in the morning, Windermere has the appearance of total tranquility if the weather is nice. While the coast in the UK is publicly accessible by law, lakes are not similarly restricted so the majority of the shore is privately held and not terribly accessible. However, there are some spots where you can visit and we checked the water out as we were heading south. You can also take the ferry across the lake if you want a far closer view!
Our Lake District stay was based out of Ambleside. It is only a short trip up the road to get to the pretty village of Grasmere. Home to William Wordsworth, it was also a good starting point for a walk through the surrounding hills taking us down to Rydal, around Rydal Water and back up to overlook Grasmere before heading back down into the village. Grasmere is a very picturesque lake which makes it pretty standard fayre for the Lake District where everything is picturesque. Even by Lake District standards, though, it does look great.
Our walk took us up on to the hillside overlooking the lake and with a view up towards Dunmail Raise and on to Thirlmere. While it started out a bit overcast, the sun started to break through as we walked and the sunlight on the hillsides amongst the shadows of the clouds made the place look magical. These pictures do nothing to share that feeling with you. The village of Grasmere is a very popular tourist location but, thankfully, most people stay close to the village and our walk, while not devoid of other people, was pretty quiet. We did come across the same three people at various times but managed to pace ourselves to allow them to head off leaving us with a bit more space. Having people around was not so much of an issue but, since I am a bit out of shape, I don’t like to see other people while I am struggling with a climb. I have to maintain the pretense that I am in good shape!
The Lake District is an area that is known to be popular for low flying military aircraft. In all of the years I have been going there, I have hardly seen any jets coming through. Mainly that was because I was there at the weekend and the military don’t tend to fly much at the weekend. I was hopeful that we might see some traffic on this trip since we would be there midweek. We did get some traffic but it didn’t go quite as planned.
A few times we saw Hawks zipping over the town while we were outside. We were generally getting ready to go somewhere else and they caught me out as they came through. On one hike I took a long lens with me. Of course, this didn’t go to plan. Most of the time I was looking at some lovely scenery so I had a wide lens on the camera. This was the time the RAF chose to show up. No jets this time but a selection of Tucano turboprop trainers. I wasn’t expecting them when they came through so grabbed the camera with the lens I had on at the time and got a few shots. These won’t be of much use to me but they do remind me of the excitement of being caught out be a low flying plane of any type.